April 2024 Update: State Legislative Activity

Learn more about how SMACNA Oregon-SW Washington's Work on Retainage Reform, Biden Administration Approves Wind Project, DOE Approves Clean Energy Funding at Current and Former Mining Sites. 

SMACNA Oregon-SW Washington Leading Efforts for Retainage Reform

In 2019, Oregon passed a law requiring that retainage on public and private sector projects be held in interest-bearing escrow accounts. However, these escrow accounts are not generally available, and the law has raised various practical questions, making compliance difficult.

Led by SMACNA Oregon-SW Washington, the commercial construction industry as a whole has come together to develop a solution that works for all: removing the escrow requirement and expanding existing law that allows surety bonds to be posted instead of retainage. In this solution, contractors, and now subcontractors, can choose to provide a surety bond instead of having retainage withheld. This allows more financial flexibility for contractors and their subcontractors while still providing security to owners.

Supported by labor, union subcontractor groups, and contractor associations, this bill has been drafted in coordination with the broader construction community, including legal and surety experts. The coalition has also worked with state agencies to ensure they are comfortable with the change. The bill is a compromise that ensures that all parts of the construction industry benefit from the proposed changes.

Surety bonds instead of retainage, including subcontractor retainage bonds, are also used in Washington state. Initially applicable only on public works, the Washington program was expanded in the 2023 legislative session to include private commercial construction. Because many Oregon contractors also work in Washington, this process is already familiar to many Oregon contractors. 

Department of Energy Supports Restart of Michigan Nuclear Plant with $1.5 B Loan

The Biden administration plans to issue a loan guarantee of up to $1.52 billion to restart a shuttered U.S. nuclear plant for the first time — underscoring the growing bipartisan support for the carbon-free energy source.

The Energy Department's Loan Programs Office announced Wednesday a conditional commitment to developer Holtec Palisades to finance the revival of the shutdown Palisades nuclear plant in Covert Township, Michigan.

The Biden administration is counting on nuclear power to help the U.S. reach its goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

Biden administration approves Sunrise Wind project challenged by rising costs

The Interior Department approved the Sunrise Wind project on Tuesday — marking the seventh approval of a commercial-scale offshore wind project under President Joe Biden and a significant development for a project that previously faced concerns.

The approval comes as developers of offshore wind projects along the East Coast are contending with rising costs that prompted cancellations and challenged the Biden administration's offshore wind goals.

Interior issued approval for the construction of up to 84 wind turbines — a milestone in the federal process for the project located about 26 nautical miles off Montauk, New York, and 16 nautical miles from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

The 924-megawatt Sunrise Wind project — from Ørsted and Eversource — is expected to be the country's largest offshore wind farm upon completion. It is expected to support more than 800 direct jobs annually during construction and about 300 jobs annually during the operations phase. 

The project is anticipated to be operational in 2026, according to Ørsted.

DOE Announces $475 Million Investment to Support Clean Energy Solutions on Current and Former Mine Land

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations announced up to $475 million in funding for five projects in Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to accelerate clean energy deployment on current and former mine land.

This funding—made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—will support various diverse, locally-driven clean energy projects that can be replicated in current and former mining communities across the country. The projects are expected to expand local and regional workforce partnerships and generate local tax revenues, supporting essential public services and spurring new economic opportunities in communities that have helped power the nation for generations.

Learn more here